February 14, 2022

In This Issue

Act Now: ERTC Reinstatement Gaining Support

Support for reinstating the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) for the fourth quarter of 2021 is gaining momentum in Congress! Bipartisan bills have now been introduced in both the Senate (S. 3625) and House (H.R. 6161) that would return access to this critical form of COVID-19 relief after it was repealed prematurely in 2021. Your orchestra can join with the League and the wider nonprofit and business sectors to help gain more support for the ERTC by contacting your members of Congress (again!) and asking them to co-sponsor these bills. As Congress continues to consider a wider package of renewed relief provisions, the League’s COVID-19 relief campaign has all the information you need, and we thank you for continuing to speak up!

States Now Processing FEMA Safe Opening Assistance

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is offering financial assistance to qualifying organizations to support costs associated with the safe opening and operations of facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. FEMA’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Safe Opening and Operation Work Eligible for Public Assistance may help support the costs of masks, testing, and other costs incurred through December 31, 2021 for those organizations that meet FEMA’s definition of a public nonprofit organization and that own their facilities or are legally responsible for their facilities. In 2008, the League and the wider performing arts community successfully secured FEMA eligibility for performing arts organizations under the agency’s definition of a “public nonprofit (PNP),” which has enabled certain nonprofit organizations to receive FEMA support following a natural disaster. FEMA COVID-19 Safe Opening support is administered through state disaster relief offices, and the experience of applicants may vary. Organizations seeking to learn more about eligibility and registering to apply can start by contacting your state’s emergency management agency and can find more background information in the League’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

U.S. Copyright Office Opens Talks on ‘Bots’

As orchestras stream performances to reach audiences online, automated copyright “bots” in use by various platforms are erroneously confusing orchestra performances for protected recordings, disrupting the streamed event. If your orchestra experiences one of these false copyright claims, please continue to complete the League’s quick online questionnaire so that your example can help fuel a policy solution to these disruptions. The U.S. Copyright Office is initiating a series of consultations to examine the use and limitations of technologies that identify protected works. The Orchestra Music Licensing Association has submitted comments to the U.S. Copyright Office seeking solutions that will prevent further unwarranted disruption of orchestra streaming activity and bringing forward examples and facts from the field of U.S. orchestras. We will keep you posted as this topic develops further and appreciate orchestras’ help in continuing to identify instances of bots disruption.

Shuttered Venue Grants in Action Nationwide

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) program has administered $14 billion in grant funds and will soon move to the “active grant management” phase. The SBA has restructured its SVOG website, will soon ask all grantees for a finalized proposed budget, and is completing a new, 30-page post-award FAQ and planning a new series of “office hours” to address many questions regarding the next phase of grant administration. The League will keep you informed as soon as these new resources are available. Also, we welcome a few words from you about the impact your Shuttered Venue grant has had for your orchestra’s workforce and service to community, as the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra recently shared in a visit by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. Contact the League’s advocacy office to share your SVOG success story or to raise questions regarding the program as we remain in dialogue with the SBA.

NEA American Rescue Plan Grants to Aid 24 Orchestras

In January, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded 567 direct grants totaling $57.75 million through the final installment of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding designated by Congress to help the arts and cultural sector in its ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. ARP awards are in the amounts of $50,000, $100,000, and $150,000, and grants support employment, operations and facilities costs, health and safety supplies, and marketing and promotional expenses. Direct grants included awards to 24 orchestras totaling $2,550,000. The League has compiled a list of ARP orchestral and related grant recipients, while the NEA makes available the full list of awards. These direct grants to organizations follow two other rounds of ARP funds administered by the NEA to states, regions, and localities to support further local grantmaking.

The NEA reports that 27 percent of direct grant recipients are first-time NEA grantees and 78 percent are small or medium sized organizations with budgets of less than $2 million. The NEA received more than 7,500 applications requesting nearly $700 million in support, which underscores the widespread need for continued support for the arts. You can contact Congress to support increased NEA funding as Congress is still finalizing the agency’s FY22 budget.

New Engagement by U.S. Department of Education on Arts Learning

The U.S. Department of Education is partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts, Teaching Artist Guild, Arts Education Partnership, and the Hewlett Foundation to host a free online conference April 5-7, 2022, Our Shared Future: Imagining a New Landscape for Teaching Artists. The event will include a checklist for arts organizations to strengthen their relationship with teaching artists and sustain the arts ecosystem. Meanwhile, senior U.S. Department of Education leadership issued a letter to arts education stakeholders in response to a request for comprehensive action to close gaps in access to arts learning, saying that further action is under consideration to support data collection, affirmation of Title I funding eligibility, and engagement with arts partners. Learn more about how your orchestra can partner at the community level to support student learning in the League’s Music Education Advocacy Resources.

Engaging International Artists? Explore Consular Waivers, Confirm Approved Vaccines

While COVID-19 international travel bans have been lifted and National Interest Exception waivers are no longer required, guest artists continue to experience some delays with consular visa processing. The U.S. Department of State has expanded its policy permitting U.S. consulates to waive in-person appointments and interviews for visa applications, which would allow qualified applicants to mail in their passport instead of visiting a consulate in-person. The usual forms and fees would still be required, but the mail-in option may cut down on some of the backlog for scheduling appointments. It’s important to phone the consulate in question to learn its exact policies, whether this option is available for O and P artist visas, and how long the entire process is estimated to take. For more details, as well as the current state of COVID-related travel requirements and links to the CDC list of approved vaccinations for international travelers entering the U.S., please visit the News section of the League’s dedicated website, Artists from Abroad. League member orchestras are also welcome to contact the League for assistance on visas.

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